- Mike Triplett, ESPN Staff Writer
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NEW ORLEANS -- The New Orleans Saints will officially unveil their Ring of Honor during halftime of tonight's game against the Dallas Cowboys. As previously announced, their inaugural class will be made up of quarterback Archie Manning, linebacker Rickey Jackson and offensive tackle Willie Roaf.
“Our three honorees are outstanding people,” Saints owner Tom Benson said in a pregame press conference. “I can't say enough about having had the pleasure of being here with Rickey and Willie, and I followed Archie throughout his great times here. New Orleans is very fortunate to have these people. ...
“We're going to put them on the Ring of Honor tonight in memory forever.”
The class was chosen by a panel made up of team ownership, front office administrators, selected former Saints players and selected members of the media.
The first trio wasn't too difficult to choose. Jackson and Roaf are the only two Pro Football Hall of Famers who spent a large portion of their careers with the Saints. And Manning was a tremendously popular quarterback from 1971-‘75 and ‘77-'82, who earned two trips to the Pro Bowl and was recognized as the NFC's Offensive Player of the Year by multiple outlets in 1978.
Saints general manager Mickey Loomis had a great line while introducing Manning -- joking about a term that has become very popular in today's NFL lexicon.
“He was an elite quarterback before we ever used the term elite,” Loomis said. “If he played today, he would be an elite quarterback.”
Some highlights from each of the honorees:
Manning: “All my nights in the Superdome weren't always memorable and my afternoons weren't always great. But I'll always remember this night, I promise you that. It's really special. It's special to me, it's special to my family.”
Jackson: “I put the Saints right up there with the Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame is something that you're proud to have. But the Saints, me being here in New Orleans, I just thank Mr. Benson for the things he did for the city -- keeping the Saints here, that was a big task right there. So I take my hat off to Mr. Benson.”
Roaf: “I'm just so grateful I got a chance to play close to home and my family and friends. A lot of them are here right now and it's going to be great tonight -- especially after we get through beating the Cowboys."